Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Live: Los Campesinos!

When: 4/22
Where: The Fillmore at Irving Plaza

I always seem to be running behind on live reviews. This show was ages ago, but here goes...

So Los Campesinos! are enough Welsh kids to cramp a tour van (let's hope they get a bus) and they originally played manic pop music and in a way, they still do, but they are depressing while being manic and their latest album proved how much they've aged in just a couple of years.

Even when they got their first break with Hold On Now, Youngster, Los Campesinos! had an excellent command of the stage, despite being barely old enough to drink beer in the U.S. Now, with their deepening maturity as musicians and as humans, the band play as well as any seasoned old pros. I mean that strictly in a good way - the band's youthful energy is certainly intact.

Guitarist Tom Campesinos (not his real last name) may bear a lot of the weight when it comes to writing, but frontman Gareth Campesinos (not his real last name) carries the weight in the live show. And Gareth has what it takes. He's passionate and sincere with every note and when he's not banging on his glockenspiel, he's climbing around on the drums and pogoing with an odd intensity and jumping out into the audience, as he did once during the set, walking all the way to the back (an extremely long mic chord was hooked up in anticipation). Gareth is an indie kid and certainly shows no trace of ego when he performs. In fact, the whole thing seems rather painful for him - as it surely must be, if you actually listen to his lyrics and actually know they are entirely true.

The Campesinos have had some personnel changes, most notably losing their keyboards and female vocalist Aleks - to higher education, if I'm not much mistaken - and adding in her stead Gareth's sister Kim. Kim was certainly struggling when I saw the band - her singing was offkey and the situation wasn't helped by her mic being mixed too loud. As I've said many times, it's never fair to judge a vocalist by one show. Everyone has nights where they can't hear themselves and are just swinging at pitches in the dark (baseball metaphor turned bad pun?). Anyway, I sure hope it was just a rough night. The other big change was an eighth Campesino lurking in the back with auxiliary percussion. I'm guess this is Rob Campesinos but he kind of blended in - which is good, auxiliary percussionists should probably not be too showy.

The setlist was great. The band hit a lot of old favorites and many of the best songs off their new record. They let some of their more post-rock tendencies shine through as well, with a few swelling instrumental sections that, while not show highlights, avoided being overindulgent or boring. The band's end of set tricks were different from last time I saw them, but they did again descend into noisy camaraderie. On stage and off, it seemed like everyone was having a good time.

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